Improving the Health of your Grandchildren

Posted: June 15, 2004

Today’s children, your grandchildren, may become the first generation to NOT live as long as their parents.

Why so? Physical inactivity and poor diet contribute to risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. We used to think of these chronic diseases as adult concerns, the price for living a good life. Unfortunately, 27% of children age 5-10 have one or more heart disease risk factors. One in three children born in the year 2000 will develop Type II Diabetes.

Obesity is one of today’s greatest health challenges. Obesity rates have doubled in children and tripled in adolescents over the last two decades. One in seven young people are obese, and one in three is overweight.

On any given day:

  • 45% of children eat no fruit
  • 20% eat less than one serving of vegetables
  • 2% of children (2 to 19 years) meet the five main recommendations for a healthy diet, according to the Food Guide Pyramid
  • 75% of children consume more saturated fat than is recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  • 31% do not achieve recommended levels of physical activity
  • Girls are less likely to engage in vigorous activity
  • 38% of high school students report watching three or more hours of TV on a typical school day

The grandparenting years are often viewed as a time to spoil the kids and send them back home. But slowing this overweight epidemic will require effort from family members of all ages.

What can a concerned grandparent do?

  • Share in physical activity with your grandchild. Locate your old bicycle, grab a baseball and glove, share your love of golf or gardening, or take a walk together. Aim for 20 minutes of physical activity during each and every visit with your grandchildren. The activity will benefit both generations.
  • Limit the amount of TV viewing during visits with your grandchildren.
  • Reward your grandchild with non-food items or time spent together.
  • Introduce new fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious snack choices. If you have the patience and enjoy food preparation, invite your grandchild to cook with you.

Prepare a low-fat, low-sugar recipe together. Kids will be more interested in tasting foods they helped to prepare.

(Source of data: Pennsylvania Advocates for Nutrition and Activity)